What states can you survive in without a car?

We wanted to see where ridesharing services were operating to determine where it is possible to survive without a car in the United States.  In our evaluation, we looked at five of the most pervasive services: Uber, Lyft, SideCar, RelayRides, and ZipCar. Then we plotted the services on a map which you can see below. If you’d like to learn more about these services and other ridesharing companies currently operating in the US, check out the ultimate guide to ridesharing companies we put together.

ridesharing infographic 2014-08-13

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It is expensive to own a vehicle. The price to buy one, the cost to repair, insurance premiums, parking and gas…it all adds up quick. Until recently, most Americans had no choice but to accept these costs as unavoidable. But now, a significant percentage of the population is adopting new forms of transportation. In many parts of the country, especially in big cities, ridesharing services have made it easy to get around without owning a vehicle.

The way we see it, people who live and work in metropolitan areas with 4 or 5 services available could get away without owning a car. You might be thinking, what about on weekends when I need to cart around the kids? Well, each of these programs offers additional services as well, catering to almost every transportation need.

Uber, Lyft, and SideCar are convenient for commuting, while ZipCar and RelayRide are useful for weekend getaways and trips out of town. For those needing a little more room for a family road trip or moving across town, big SUVs and pickup trucks are available to rent through RelayRide.

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It is no surprise that all of the companies involved in the study are operating in California.  Four of the five ridesharing services in this study were founded in San Francisco. Apart from its technological underpinnings, California has large cities, limited public transportation and terrifying traffic jams.

Other populated states, such as Texas and Florida boasted 4 out of 5 ridesharing services. In fact, of the 24 states where at least 4 ridesharing companies are in operation, 85% are in the top 20 most densely populated states. The fundamental principle behind ridesharing is being within close proximity to other ridesharing members to build a healthy network of supply and demand.  Hence, the most densely populated states are where we expect to see the most success with these programs.

Regulatory Issues
Population density is not the only thing that matters, though. The Greater New York City region is a prime candidate for ridesharing services, yet only three of the five programs are operating in the state. Opposition from regulators, especially the Taxi and Limousine Commission has put the kibosh on ridesharing programs, which are seen as a direct competitor to the city’s taxi services. Although Lyft is currently operating in the city, the launch was greatly delayed due to regulatory issues and the company is struggling to get the service off the ground in the Big Apple.

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The whole problem with these ridesharing services is they offer rides at a cheaper rates than taxis. Plus, it’s simpler and more convenient to get a ride using an app than it is to stand in the streets waving at cars driving by at 45 miles an hour. The Taxi and limousine associations still hold a lot of clout, but unless they make major changes to their antiquated business model, it seems inevitable that they will be overrun by the deluge of technological innovation unleashed by the ridesharing revolution.

Social Issues
Social perceptions are also an inhibitor of ridesharing services. People just don’t think they can live without a car. In order to combat this, ZipCar and Uber teamed up and launched #DitchYourKeysDC. The campaign called for residents of the DC metro area to submit success stories about ditching their cars in favor of alternative transportation.  The folks with the best stories received $500 transportation packs.

ditch-your-keys

It takes time for people to get comfortable with any new technology (just look at driverless cars and Tesla) – ridesharing services are no different. Awareness is a huge part of comfort. People have to know that these services are ubiquitous in their areas.  Uber has engaged in a variety of campaigns to build awareness and define its brand, including a short-term kitten-rental service in NYC and on-demand barbecue chefs in the Hamptons. This might sound like nothing more than a publicity stunt, but the company has successfully become a part of the urban vernacular. You can “Uber” to the club on Saturday night just like you can “Google” where to get the best cronut in Manhattan.

Impact on Automakers
The economy is fueled by the automotive industry and the stakeholders are trying to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape of the auto industry.  Programs like Uber, Lyft and Zipcar are already impacting the sales of new cars. According to consulting firm Alix Partners, ridesharing services have eliminated 500,000 sales of new cars already, with the potential to eliminate a total of 1.2 million car sales by 2021.

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In fact, automotive manufacturers will likely face a slew of compounding problems by 2021. The autonomous vehicle is becoming somewhat of a celebrity. We’ve already shown you that driverless cars are becoming legal on roads in the US. Many experts believe that ridesharing and driverless technology are going to reshape the way we see transportation in the US. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick thinks so, too. After Google unveiled its driverless car earlier this year, he remarked that driverless cars are the future and drivers are not.

There might be a few of you who remember what happened to elevator operators once technology allowed for complete automation… right? Elevator operators used to be represented by powerful unions, but as elevator technology improved, elevator operators were no longer required. There was a clear economic incentive to nix the position and the unions could only fight for so long before they lost the war.  In a city like New York with over 50,000 taxi drivers, expect the same thing to happen.

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Written by Johncarlo Pecorari and Sam Jackson

Image Credit: Al Jazeera, Zipcar